Joseph Edward Taylor, son of George Edward Grove and Ann Wicks Taylor, was born December 11, 1830, at Horsham, Sussex, England. In his early childhood he was taken by his parents to Tetbury, Gloustershire, England, the birthplace of his mother, where he spent his boyhood and early youth. When he was 15 years of age the family moved to Hull, in Yorkshire. Here, by accident, he first heard of 'Mormonism' and after a careful investigation which lasted several months he applied for baptism and received the ordinance, August 11, 1848. On October 4, 1848 he was ordained a Priest and was called to do missionary work in Lincolnshire.
While serving as a missionary he asked a minister if he could use his hall to preach in. The minister consented and urged his congregation to come out and hear Mormonism exposed. He would show up this boy. The night of the meeting arrived and the hall was packed. The boy asked them to sing, "God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform". After the song, he knelt by the pulpit and poured out his soul in prayer to God that he might be able to explain this beautiful Gospel to the congregation. After the prayer and another song, he preached a sermon. All were very impressed; they felt the power of this boy. Those who had come to deride and make fun, left quietly.
The next day a newspaper man met the minister on the street and said, "Well, how did you like the boy's sermon last night? You filled your hall with members of your church to hear Mormonism exposed." The minister replied, "Sermon? Did that boy preach a sermon? Yes, I guess he did preach a sermon, but did you hear that boy PRAY? Man, I was raised in a house of prayer; my father was a man of prayer, but never in all my life have I heard anyone pray as that boy did. I was afraid man, afraid to open my eyes for fear I'd see God standing beside that boy---and I know He was there and that He heard and answered that boy's prayer. I've been able to think of nothing else since that time. So I say, Did you hear that boy pray?"
One year later he became an Elder and continued his missionary labors until he was released, January 11, 1851. During this period of two years and three months, he walked to fill appointments, 6,859 miles, preached at 250 exhortations, held over 100 outdoor meetings, presided at 52 sacrament meetings, and held 27 public religious dis-cussions. During the summers of 1849 and 1850, he often held five meetings in one or more large towns or cities on Sabbath days, sometimes two outdoor and three indoor, and visa versa; in many instances doing all the preach-ing and praying himself, besides leading the singing at each meeting, no other Elder or Priest being associated with him in opening up a great deal of new ground. He often worked with his hands on weekdays to obtain money to help pay hall rent and defray other necessary expenses, and said he seldom felt weary in body or mind.
On January 8, 1851, Joseph left England with nearly five hundred Saints, James W. Cummings being the president of the company, bound for Salt Lake City, Utah. The voyage across the ocean was made in the sailing vessel "Ellen" which arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, in the latter part of March.
Shortly after arriving in St. Louis, he was prostrated by sickness, which made it necessary for him to remain in Missouri until the following year. He left Winter Quarters on June 12, in Company No. 4, (Captain Joseph Outhouse) and arrived in the great Salt Lake Valley, September 6 of the same year.
On February 17, 1853, Joseph was ordained a Seventy and became identified with the Thirty-first Quorum, and was made one of its presidents.
September 23, 1853, Joseph married Louisa Rebecca Capener, daughter of William and Sarah Verrinder Capener, at the home of William Smith, by Bishop John Lytle. To this union were born ten children.
At this time he went in the cabinet-making business with his father-in-law.
Joseph received his endowments on August 24, 1854, and was ordained a High Priest on September 12. He was set apart as Counselor to Bishop Lytle of the Eleventh Ward in Salt Lake City and continued to act in that capacity until August of 1856, at which time Bishop Lytle was sent to Carson Valley on a mission.
Adventure, enterprise, invention, civic and educational stride and a multitude of places of spiritual and material life have always intrigued mankind. Ever there is to be found one who has beckoned to the less venturesome, one who dared the wilderness of earth, sky, and spirit. Each pioneer in his chosen field should have honor from those who follow, from those whose footsteps are lighter because of the man who had courage to be "The First". Joseph was one of those who pushed forward early, that others might advance also.
It was somewhere about this period of his life that he commenced serving one night every week as a guard at Presi-dent Young's office.
The man who had charge of the guard on the night upon which he served was Joseph Scofield, a carpenter and bridge builder, who was much in the employ of the Church. Joseph E. Layton was another member of the guard under his direction, as also were William Thorn and George Cannon Lambert. There were from eight to twelve thus always on duty at the President's Office every night. As a rule one at a time, armed with a gun or revolver, was outside the office marching around the premises, challenging every suspicious-looking character he saw, opening gates or calling the regular turnkey, who was usually D.J. Ross, out to do so when anyone had to pass in or out; and the others inside the office, sitting around chatting or reclining on the floor, ready for service at a mo-ment's warning. The Captain specified who should be on duty outside and for how long a period. They used to carry their roll of bedding with them, going about dusk and returning very early in the morning, and it was really a pleasant diversion. President Young would frequently come into his office in the evening and converse for a while with those present and Joseph always enjoyed hearing him and would not have hesitated about risking his life any moment in his defense. His experience in this line must have extended over several years. Naturally, of course, those who thus served became more or less acquainted with President Young's home life and that of his grown-up sons and daughters and especially with the young men who were paying court to the fine bevy of girls in the family who were then of marriageable age. It not infrequently happened that the young people wished to be passed in and out, sometimes surreptitiously, and when the guard felt it was all right to favor them, it was done, and nothing said about it.
In 1862, Joseph organized the embalming and undertaking business and pioneered in this field in the Valley. He was called and set apart by President Brigham Young for this work. He was the first mortician in the state of Utah; also the first to open a casket factory. At that time he had to make all coffins by hand, but by perseverence the little factory grew and became a modern casket factory. He followed that business for forty years. His records show that he buried a city of 25,000 people and preached about 30,000 funeral sermons.
On July 9, 1875, Joseph married in polygamy, Jane Maria Capener Hanks, ex-wife of Ephraim K. Hanks, mother of seven children, who was a sister of his first wife, Louisa. She had given her consent and went with them to the Endowment House to be married and sealed. To them were born two daughters.
Of her father, Jane Taylor Alexander writes: "Father and mother were divorced on March 26, 1886. Why, I cannot understand, as father was a wonderful provider. I can never remember a time we did not have plenty to spare, thus enabling mother to give to those who were less fortunate than we. My sister Margaret and I have always felt cheated because, through that separation, we were deprived of really knowing the love of a dear father for his daughters, although he did all in his power to make us feel near to him. Mother, too, was a wonderful woman, a true Latter-Day saint until the end."
On December 22, 1875, he was called by President Brigham Young to go on a mission to the states of Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois, to labor among the Josephites and others who had seceded from the Church. He was accompanied on this mission by Elder Claudius V. Spencer of Salt Lake City, who had been appointed at the same time; they were joined at Council Bluffs by Elder Isaac Bullock of Provo, upon his return from the East. As the result of this mission, 36 persons were baptized, three branches organized, eight children blessed and one couple married. Meetings were held nearly every night. Twenty-four of the 36 people baptized emigrated to the Salt Lake Valley in less than one year. While on this mission, Joseph paid a personal visit to Emma Smith, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was residing in the mansion house in Nauvoo at that time with her husband, Lewis C. Bidaman, to whom she was married sometime after Joseph's death.
Joseph's object in making this visit was to learn from Emma's own lips some things in relation to the 'Reorganized Church', which was presided over by her oldest son, Joseph. Among other things, he propounded this question, "Why did you use your influence to have your son Joseph installed as the President of the reorganization, knowing, as you must have done, that the men who would confer upon him this authority were apostates and some of them had been cut off from the Church?" To this she replied somewhat evasively, but from her remarks he discovered her intense dislike for President Young, whom she accused of entirely ignoring Joseph's family. She claimed that the family had a right to not only recognition, but to representation.
This reason, and her utter distaste for the man from other causes, had led her to do as she had done. Joseph replied by taking out of his pocket a photograph of President Young and showing it to her remarking, "After all, Emma, he appears to be pretty well preserved personally, and the Church has not lost any of its strength, either numerically or otherwise, from the opposition which I think you have very unwisely aided and abetted." At this point the conversation ended.
Joseph returned home April 7, 1876, and on the following day, April 8, in General Conference, was appointed to the office of Second Counselor to Angus M. Cannon, who at the same time was called to preside over the Salt Lake Stake, which stake then extended over the entire counties of Salt Lake, Davis, Tooele, Morgan, Wasatch and Summit.
October 11, 1876, Joseph married Lisador Williams, daughter of Samuel and Andronache Moore Williams. To them were born three sons, the eldest having been 'stillborn'.
April 28, 1884, he married Clara Ann Sudbury, daughter of Samuel John and Emma Lavina Crossland Sudbury. To this union were born four daughters and four sons. He later married Harriet Arabella Wooley, daughter of John Mills and Maria Lucy Dewey Wooley of Salt Lake City.
On October 13 he was set apart under the hands of the late President John Taylor, George Q. Cannon and Angus W. Cannon, to act as First Counselor to the latter. Brother David O. Calder had heretofore filled that position, having died a short time previous. He occupied this position until April, 1904, when the final division of the Salt Lake Stake was made.
His residence in Salt Lake City was continuous from the time of his arrival in 1852. In those 60 years he followed several occupations: ranching, farming, furniture-making and finally that of undertaker. He held the office of City Sexton for 30 years and during the 40 years he followed his profession as undertaker, he became known through his service to nearly every family in the state.
He served as an advisor in several businesses. He was a Representative in the Second State Legislature, exhibiting sound judgment and wisdom as a lawmaker. He was always prominent in sustaining the institutions of Zion, which have for their objective the advancement of the people. This has been exhibited by him in a very marked manner in the relation to Church schools and especially in regard to the L.D.S. University, formerly the L.D.S. College. He personally undertook the task of raising funds for its support, for he had expressed himself as believing that the Lord would be displeased with the Saints if they discontinued it. In his effort he was eminently successful. Liberal donations were made by a great many of the citizens, prominent among whom was Joseph him-self. President Snow expressed himself as highly pleased with the successful effort made, and nobly responded with the gift in behalf of the Church, of one-quarter of the block east of the Temple, upon which a very creditable building has been erected and is now fully occupied with students. Following this, Sister M. Barrett's gift of money, sufficient to erect upon this ground the "Barrett Memorial Building", for school purposes, and the transfer of real estate by the heirs of President Young, to the University, furnished enough means to erect a third building. The gift of $1000, for library purposes by Ezra T. Clark and other prospects, gave additional promise of perpetual success to this institution of learning in which Joseph had taken so much interest. He was, up to the time of his death, a member of the board of trustees of the L.D.S. University, to which institution he was ever a pillar of strength.
On April 2, 1904, he became a Patriarch in the Church, and has since that date given and recorded 304 blessings.
About one month before his death, Joseph was stricken with a cold the effects of which developed a uraemic trouble and compelled him to remain in the house. He had entirely overcome the uraemic difficulty before his death, but his strength was practically exhausted, and on Sunday, feeling a premonition that his end was near, called the members of his family about him and gave each one a blessing, after the fashion of the Patriarchs of old. He slept well until 3:45 o'clock in the morning, when he awoke, asked for a drink of water, raised up in bed, took the glass in his hand, drank, and then lay back on the pillow and died without a struggle, and without evident pain. This was on February 18, 1913.
As a citizen, he was loyal to every principle of advancement and good government. As a neighbor, he was kind and generous. As a father, he spared nothing in his effort to prepare his children to occupy positions of trust and honor in the community. His ecclesiastical record is a noble one. The fulfillment of duty was his first and permanent thought, every worldly consideration being made to yield thereto. As a writer and public speaker, his style was individual, but lucid and forceful, giving evidence that his understanding of the philosophy and spirit of 'Mormonism' was indeed profound. And with all, his reverence for God's annointed in the Church was unbounded. All of these qualities and virtues and services have won for him the esteem and confidence of hosts. The honor and integrity of his life will never die.
He has not served who gathers gold
Nor has he served whose life is told
In selfish battle he has won
Or deeds of skill that he has done.
But he has served who now and then
Has helped along his fellowmen.